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The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express tend to offer sign-up bonuses of 25,000 Starpoints (after spending $3,000 or $5,000 in the first three months, respectively). Compared to 100,000-point bonuses available on other cards, this might not seem like much — though Starpoints are the highest-rated currency listed in TPG’s monthly valuations, and we have seen sign-up offers rise a bit higher, to 35,000 Starpoints.
These Starwood co-branded cards tend to be pretty predictable when it comes to sign-up offers, which is why this new bonus is especially interesting. Today through October 19, 2016, instead of earning points, you can earn two free nights at Category 1-5 Starwood properties after spending $3,000 or $5,000 in the first three months on the personal and business card, respectively. This is the first time the cards are offering free nights as a welcome offer.
Here are the personal card’s main features:
- Zero foreign transaction fees on international purchases.
- Earn 2 Starpoints for each dollar of eligible purchases charged at hotels and reports participating in the SPG program
- Redeem Starpoints for free nights at more than 1,300 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries and no blackout dates
- Redeem Starpoints for free flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG Flights and no blackout dates
- Get free in-room, premium Internet access while staying with SPG participating hotels
- Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide
- Receive credit for 5 nights and 2 stays towards SPG Elite status each year
The business card offers all the same perks and earning rates, but also gives cardholders free access to the Sheraton Club Lounge when they book eligible reservations, along with Amex OPEN Savings benefits.
Is It Worth It?
Rather than awarding you 25,000 Starpoints — which are worth $625 based on TPG’s valuations — after spending $5,000 in the first three months, this limited-time offers gets you two free nights at Category 1-5 Starwood hotels.
To give you an idea of how two free nights compares to the points haul you’ll get from the standard sign-up bonus, here’s a chart showing you the rewards you’d need to book a free night at Category 1-5 hotels:
|Category||Points Per Night (Standard Room)|
As you can see, the lowest-category Starwood properties require far fewer than 12,500 points a night, meaning that redeeming your two free nights from the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card‘s current sign-up bonus at these hotels would technically be less valuable than getting 25,000 Starpoints.
That’s not saying two free nights a low-category hotel couldn’t be valuable — if it were to charge expensive cash rates. However, that’s pretty much never the case; the highest nightly rate I found for a Category 4 property was at the St. Regis Mumbai, where rooms go for $182 per night in early February. Since an award night costs 10,000 Starpoints, that equals a value of 1.82 cents per point — decent, but not an amazing deal, especially considering the cash rate isn’t sky-high.
The two nights get more valuable when you move up to Category 5, which includes six St. Regis properties and 17 W Hotel locations.
A two-night stay at the W Istanbul in early May would cost you $216 or 16,000 points per night. While this isn’t the most valuable redemption option since you’re getting a per-point value of just 1.36 cents, a two-night stay is “worth” 32,000 Starpoints, more than you’d get with the regular sign-up bonus.
The W Goa, which is opening in November 2016, could also be a good use of the two free nights if you want to hit India’s beaches in December. A standard room in the middle of the month is $327 or 12,000 Starpoints per night. That works out to a per-point value of 2.7 cents — higher than TPG’s 2.5-cent valuation — but that redemption would only set you back 24,000 points for two nights, meaning you could book it and have points left over with the previous 25,000-point sign-up bonus. Plus, cash rates at this property are significantly cheaper a few months out; you could easily pay less than $200 per night, bringing the value of those two free nights down.
Points-wise, two free nights at a Category 1-5 Starwood property could be worth more than the 25,000 points you’ll usually get as sign-up bonus with the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card, since some Category 5 hotels charge 16,000 points per night. That said, you need to look at the cash rates to make sure redeeming points or a free night credit makes sense. In most cases, you’ll only be getting so-so value from these redemptions — at least compared to the other excellent ways you can put your rewards to use.
Again, if you do sign up for either of these cards before October 19 and earn the bonus of two free nights, make sure you thoroughly research cash rates at your hotel of choice before applying these. At the very least you’ll want to redeem them at a Category 5 property, but even then depending on the property and hotel it might make sense to book a paid stay instead.
Current sign-up bonus aside, if you’re considering signing up for either of these cards, there are plenty of reasons to do so. Not only are Starpoints extremely valuable for certain hotel redemptions and for transferring to a huge list of airline partners, but it’s also unclear how much longer these cards will be available with the Marriott-Starwood merger ahead of us.
If, after the acquisition is finalized, these cards were to be closed to new applicants, it could be a lot harder for those customers to earn a stash of Starpoints without spending significantly on hotel stays. Plus, both cards offer 2 stay and 5 night credits toward elite status each year (with the ability to earn SPG Gold status when you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year), plus free premium in-room internet and a variety of purchase protections. Since the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card and Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card are separate products, you can earn the sign-up bonus on one card even if you’ve already earned it on the other.
Featured image courtesy of the W Goa.
Would you rather have 25,000 Starpoints or two free nights at Category 1-5 properties?
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